NHRA: Anderson wins 4th of ’15, Stoffer over Sampey in 3rd all-female final in NHRA history; Kalitta, Beckman also win

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As the NHRA hit the mid-point of its 24-race season this weekend, things are going to get even hotter over the next six races as the series closes in on the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs

Sunday’s final eliminations of the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals was a good sample of what’s to come, as Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) took home wins in Norwalk, Ohio.

Anderson earned his fourth win of the season, Beckman earned his third win of 2015 and Kalitta and Stoffer each earned their second wins of the season at Summit Motorsports Park.

Driving the Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro, Anderson (6.592 seconds at 212.19 mph) earned the 78th win of his career, defeating rookie Drew Skillman (6.594 at 211.43) in the final round.

“We come here with high hopes,” Anderson said in an NHRA media release. “We want to do so well in front of all the folks from Summit here.

“You put a lot of pressure on yourself. I keep saying it, ‘Most people would come in and say we don’t want that pressure, we’re going to dread this weekend. It’s just going to be too much stress.’ We love it.”

Anderson took the Pro Stock points lead back from defending champ Erica Enders, who qualified No. 1 but was upset in Sunday’s opening round. Anderson now leads Enders by 60 points.

“There is so much competition in this class,” Anderson said. “It is such a battle every weekend. It is so hard to win and it feels so good when you do win. I’m having a ball.

“It’s a dog fight every week. You feel fantastic at the end of the day if you can find a way to win, to conquer it. This is no less gratifying than it was with my very first win back in 2001.”

In Funny Car, Beckman (4.211 seconds at 31.67 mph) earned his 18th career NHRA win after defeating Courtney Force (4.609 at 199.64) in the final round.

Beckman won the 2012 NHRA Funny Car championship, but went winless in 2013 and 2014. New crew chief Jimmy Prock has been a key factor in Beckman’s wins this season at Charlotte, Topeka and now Norfolk.

“This race was awesome for what we had to overcome and the fact that we beat all of the Force cars,” said Beckman, who defeated 16-time champ John Force in the first round, Robert Hight in the second round, Tim Wilkerson in the third and then Courtney Force. “It was a fabulous win.”

Beckman’s second career win at Norwalk moved him into third place in the Funny Car standings.

In Top Fuel, Kalitta earned his 37th career win (3.823 seconds at 322.34 mph) by defeating points leader Antron Brown (3.918 at 307.79).

“This is our hometown track and it was great having a lot of family and close friends here, so it doesn’t get much better than that,” said Kalitta, whose team is based in Ypsilanti, Mich. “Even my mom actually showed up.

“I think she’s only shown up one other time in my entire career. She watches it on TV quite a bit but doesn’t come too often. I’m going to have to tell her that she has to come out [again since] we won with her here.”

Perhaps the most notable showdown of the day came in Pro Stock Motorcycle, the third pro final round in NHRA history that pitted two female competitors against each other.

Stoffer earned her eighth career NHRA win by defeating four former PSM champions in Sunday’s eliminations: Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec, LE Tonglet in the semifinals and Angelle Sampey, who fouled with a red-light start in the final round.

The win moved Stoffer into fifth place in the PSM rankings, just 105 points behind series leader Eddie Krawiec.

“I’m still pinching myself, but we never planned how this season was going to go,” Stoffer said. “I didn’t think I’d be here for a second. We just wanted to put our best foot forward, and to end up winning, that is icing on the cake.”

It was the second final round meeting between Sampey and Stoffer. Sampey won the first time back in 2002 in Reading, Pa.

The only other NHRA pro series final to feature two females against each other came in 1982 when three-time Top Fuel champ Shirley Muldowney defeated Lucille Lee in Columbus, Ohio.

The next race is next weekend (July 9-12) with the Route 66 Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill.

FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Doug Kalitta; 2.  Antron Brown; 3.  Clay Millican; 4.  Tony Schumacher; 5.  Shawn Langdon; 6. Larry Dixon; 7.  Brittany Force; 8.  Steve Torrence; 9.  Leah Pritchett; 10.  Dave Connolly; 11. Terry McMillen; 12.  Pat Dakin; 13.  J.R. Todd; 14.  Chris Karamesines; 15.  Cory McClenathan; 16. Spencer Massey.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Jack Beckman; 2.  Courtney Force; 3.  Del Worsham; 4.  Tim Wilkerson; 5.  Matt Hagan; 6. Robert Hight; 7.  Cruz Pedregon; 8.  Alexis DeJoria; 9.  Ron Capps; 10.  Chad Head; 11.  John Bojec; 12.  Tony Pedregon; 13.  John Hale; 14.  John Force; 15.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 16.  Jeff Diehl.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Greg Anderson; 2.  Drew Skillman; 3.  Jason Line; 4.  Chris McGaha; 5.  Larry Morgan; 6. Jonathan Gray; 7.  Rodger Brogdon; 8.  Alan Prusiensky; 9.  Vincent Nobile; 10.  Bo Butner; 11. Shane Gray; 12.  Allen Johnson; 13.  Curt Steinbach; 14.  V. Gaines; 15.  Erica Enders; 16.  John Gaydosh Jr.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1.  Karen Stoffer; 2.  Angelle Sampey; 3.  Chip Ellis; 4.  LE Tonglet; 5.  Andrew Hines; 6.  Jim Underdahl; 7.  Eddie Krawiec; 8.  Angie Smith; 9.  Jerry Savoie; 10.  Hector Arana; 11.  Matt Smith; 12.  Chaz Kennedy; 13.  Steve Johnson; 14.  Joe DeSantis; 15.  Hector Arana Jr; 16.  Scotty Pollacheck.

FINAL RESULTS:

Top Fuel: Doug Kalitta, 3.823 seconds, 322.34 mph  def. Antron Brown, 3.918 seconds, 307.79 mph.

Funny Car: Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.211, 301.67  def. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.609, 199.64.

Pro Stock: Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.592, 212.19  def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.594, 211.43.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.984, 193.10  def. Angelle Sampey, Buell, foul.

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Shawn Langdon, 3.794, 318.09 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.790, 324.05; Brittany Force, 3.797, 324.90 def. Pat Dakin, 3.891, 294.63; Larry Dixon, 3.757, 332.51 def. Dave Connolly, 3.849, 323.43; Antron Brown, 3.796, 324.67 def. Terry McMillen, 3.859, 319.14; Doug Kalitta, 3.774, 326.40 def. Chris Karamesines, 3.967, 307.02; Tony Schumacher, 3.798, 326.00 def. Cory McClenathan, 4.127, 256.84; Clay Millican, 3.868, 315.71 def. Spencer Massey, 4.351, 206.61; Steve Torrence, 3.783, 323.97 def. J.R. Todd, 3.956, 244.65; QUARTERFINALS — Brown, 3.971, 277.49 def. Force, 4.326, 215.93; Schumacher, 3.829, 321.65 def. Langdon, 4.126, 233.56; Millican, 3.983, 309.42 def. Dixon, 4.324, 197.13; Kalitta, 3.846, 321.12 def. Torrence, 4.930, 153.46; SEMIFINALS — Kalitta, 3.849, 322.19 def. Millican, 3.879, 315.64; Brown, 3.887, 315.86 def. Schumacher, 4.044, 265.22; FINAL — Kalitta, 3.823, 322.34 def. Brown, 3.918, 307.79.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.090, 312.57 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 5.146, 157.14; Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.078, 316.97 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.304, 244.87; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.049, 316.90 def. John Hale, Charger, 4.452, 210.64; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.081, 313.15 def. John Bojec, Toyota Solara, 4.208, 297.29; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.115, 308.35 def. Jeff Diehl, Solara, broke; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.063, 314.02 def. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.657, 188.70; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.090, 314.83 def. Chad Head, Camry, 4.159, 306.67; Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.069, 319.82 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.066, 312.93; QUARTERFINALS — Worsham, 4.145, 306.67 def. DeJoria, 9.558, 81.34; Wilkerson, 4.528, 206.80 def. C. Pedregon, 5.720, 123.34; Beckman, 4.104, 311.56 def. Hight, 4.173, 274.72; C. Force, 4.097, 317.49 def. Hagan, 4.153, 305.29; SEMIFINALS — Beckman, 4.141, 285.59 def. Wilkerson, 5.026, 162.25; C. Force, 4.143, 314.46 def. Worsham, 4.336, 226.51; FINAL — Beckman, 4.211, 301.67 def. C. Force, 4.609, 199.64.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.567, 211.26 def. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.582, 211.89; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.553, 211.76 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.592, 210.47; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.555, 211.69 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.578, 211.66; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.550, 211.66 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.557, 211.79; Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.578, 212.19 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 9.007, 102.49; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.577, 211.13 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 13.272, 65.31; Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Avenger, 6.704, 206.67 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 9.776, 94.97; Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.566, 210.50 def. Curt Steinbach, Camaro, 6.955, 186.48; QUARTERFINALS — Skillman, 6.592, 211.10 def. Prusiensky, 6.775, 205.66; McGaha, 23.907, 29.32 def. Brogdon, foul; Anderson, 6.575, 211.46 def. J. Gray, 6.620, 210.11; Line, 6.583, 210.73 def. Morgan, 6.583, 211.63; SEMIFINALS — Skillman, 6.588, 211.36 def. Line, 6.568, 211.69; Anderson, 6.594, 211.83 def. McGaha, 8.841, 107.77; FINAL — Anderson, 6.592, 212.19 def. Skillman, 6.594, 211.43.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.890, 194.21 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.881, 194.88; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.976, 193.99 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.982, 192.88; Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.918, 195.39 def. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.944, 195.31; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.902, 192.69 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, broke; Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.922, 194.63 def. Matt Smith, 6.974, 192.91; Angie Smith, 7.095, 188.75 def. Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 7.312, 146.32; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.880, 195.17 def. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.977, 192.19; Chip Ellis, Buell, 6.872, 196.76 def. Joe DeSantis, Suzuki, 7.089, 190.86; QUARTERFINALS — Sampey, 6.951, 192.93 def. Hines, 6.955, 192.58; Tonglet, 6.944, 194.35 def. A. Smith, 7.098, 188.44; Ellis, 6.892, 195.70 def. Underdahl, 6.982, 193.16; Stoffer, 6.972, 193.68 def. Krawiec, 6.997, 190.48; SEMIFINALS — Stoffer, 6.937, 193.63 def. Tonglet, 6.942, 194.24; Sampey, 6.948, 194.30 def. Ellis, 6.910, 194.52; FINAL — Stoffer, 6.984, 193.10 def. Sampey, foul.

UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

Top Fuel: 1.  Antron Brown, 925; 2.  Tony Schumacher, 905; 3.  Doug Kalitta, 791; 4.  Richie Crampton, 764; 5.  Larry Dixon, 754; 6.  Spencer Massey, 730; 7.  Shawn Langdon, 674; 8.  Brittany Force, 641; 9. J.R. Todd, 597; 10.  Clay Millican, 583.

Funny Car: 1.  Matt Hagan, 932; 2.  Ron Capps, 812; 3.  Jack Beckman, 782; 4.  Del Worsham, 781; 5.  John Force, 748; 6.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 680; 7.  Cruz Pedregon, 657; 8.  Tim Wilkerson, 642; 9.  Robert Hight, 633; 10.  Alexis DeJoria, 626.

Pro Stock: 1.  Greg Anderson, 1,065; 2.  Erica Enders, 1,005; 3.  Jason Line, 900; 4.  Chris McGaha, 831; 5. Drew Skillman, 666; 6.  Larry Morgan, 629; 7.  Allen Johnson, 622; 8.  Shane Gray, 615; 9.  Vincent Nobile, 597; 10.  Rodger Brogdon, 580.

Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1.  Eddie Krawiec, 375; 2.  Hector Arana Jr, 322; 3.  Andrew Hines, 320; 4.  Hector Arana, 291; 5. Karen Stoffer, 270; 6.  Jim Underdahl, 258; 7.  Scotty Pollacheck, 239; 8.  Jerry Savoie, 236; 9. LE Tonglet, 230; 10.  Angelle Sampey, 224.

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NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”